THE ARCHERFISH (Toxotes spp)
Still on the theme of being able to see both under water and in the air, we have this lovely little specimen called the archerfish.
A New Scientist article describes it thus:
Awesome skills of spitting archerfish revealed
The Indo-Pacific fish is able to spit water at its prey out of the water, and hit it. A video shows a fish leaping out of the water to catch an insect.
"Scientists had thought their hunting technique was an unsophisticated skill, based on blasts of water with a "spit and hope" quality.
However, in 2004 researchers showed that these fish are able to precisely judge the size and position of prey above the water line, taking into account the distorting effect on light of passing from air to water."
There's another fascinating feature. The mouthparts are poked out of the water when firing the blast.
That means 2 things at least.
1 The eyes are UNDERWATER while the gun is OUT of the water in the air. Imagine underwater frogmen with a gun firing at a helicopter. They can only see the target, and have no radar, sonar or other aid. What are the chances? And remember, they have brains.
2 Somehow the fish has figured out that if it remains too far UNDERWATER, the jet will be either weakened or won't reach the surface because of water resistance. So it sticks its mouth out of the water.
Their mouthparts are specially designed to enable this unique phenomenon to take place. As far as I know, no other fish in the world can do this accurate spitting, and therefore this is an evolutionary nightmare: no relatives, no gradual acquisition of the necessary physical characteristics, and definitely no acquisition of the instinctive behaviour pattern. No common ancestors.
So where did it come from?
Here is the obligatory, stupid comment: "This suggests the behaviour is evolutionarily "hardwired" and not subject to learning, the researchers say."
Not learned. Right there in our faces. Where did it come from?
Let me point out the difficulties any evolutionary theory has to face.
1 The unique mouthparts. No other fish has them, and they have to work first time, or the fish would have starved. They don't eat anything else.
Archerfish prey mainly on insects, which are shot down from overhanging branches with a strong and accurate jet of water. They form a spitting tube by positioning their tongue against a groove on the roof of their mouth.
Water is forced through this tube by quickly snapping shut their gills creating a very effective water pistol. For maximum accuracy the tip of their snout extends out of the water while the rest of the body remains submerged. They direct the jet of water with the tip of their tongue.
1. How did they learn to do this with the mouthparts when they've got them?
Remember the question: "Duh! Now what the hell do I do with this??"
2 The ability to take account of the differences in refractive index of water and air. From underwater, an insect would appear to be somewhere else than directly above the fish, and not in a straight line. Somehow the fish corrects for this. How?
3 How does a fish calculate that it will take more force to blast a bigger prey off its perch into the water? It obviously does, says the article - so where did this bit of 'fishy intelligence' come from?
ArcherFish: Changing Caliber to Fit Prey
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
"A fish learning the laws of optics is an amazing feat. But to combine those optical laws with the precision shooting of a sniper and then calculating the force of the shot according to the size of the prey (in order to obtain food), defies evolutionary explanation.
How was this creature able to “evolve” these distinctive abilities, and furthermore, why go through all the trouble? Why not just eat aquatic animals like other fish?"
Heidi Hardman remarked:
In a series of experiments, the researchers showed that the fish do not learn this by remembering which combinations of spatial configurations and the corresponding images were rewarding in the past. Rather, the fish extracted the underlying law that connects spatial configuration and apparent size. This remarkable cognitive ability allows the fish to readily judge a target’s objective size from underwater views they have never encountered before (2004).
Random mutations, anyone? Thought so.
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